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Gerald Young, Ph.D.
Gerald Young Ph.D.

The Making and Unmaking of the Self

Calm, Peace, and Harmony Within

Jonah was in search of his identity. He was proud of his masculine side, but he wondered why he did not attract partners to share his ambition to raise a large family, he even travels extensively for work. While Tricia felt confident in her self, she was embarking on a new career and had serious self-doubts about whether she would succeed. She began drinking alcohol in excess on the weekends.

Young people need to get ready for their life trip, and they are advised that it does not peak with exciting vacations on luxurious islands. Rather, life peaks in moments of calm reflection, in moving toward a serene peace within, and in following a harmonious life path.

How can you get on this calm, peaceful, and harmonious path? Even though that path might be filled with challenges that do not seem peaceful, striving to keep an even keel will increase inner peace.

Finding an inner calm partly lies in other people around you and in your environment. However, part of the answer lies in yourself--the motivation to change, the readiness to open up, the deep desire to better see within yourself and to act better with others.

The good news is that together calm, peace, and harmony are inner workings that are not that difficult to kick-start. The bad news is that they might be hard to keep once they are acquired. The best news is that we all can start building them and reinforcing them, making them key, permanent parts of ourselves.

How can you add that inner calm that we all seek into your sense of self in a constructive fashion? How can you find the ability to:

  • Balance your competing selves
  • Bring out better part of you that are hidden or masked and that would be beneficial to you
  • Solidify those these parts that are definite improvements but just beginning to develop
  • Control or even eliminate those parts of the self that really do not do you any good or harm
  • Help formulate new parts of yourself that are filled with dreams and hopes and might bring you more joy and a better way of living?
  • Make sure that a critical part of yourself is the inner calm, peace, and harmony that will allow other happier and better parts of yourself to emerge and become part of you?

Sometimes you need to make a clear decision to improve yourself. You could undertake this change by yourself, or get the right social support, or even get professional help. The desire to change for the better is a powerful motivation for each of us. However, the making of your self might have to begin with the unmaking of parts of your self that are holding you back or are even self-sabotaging or undermining your progress.

Parts of your self that are negative might have developed very early in life, complicating the process. However, even in these circumstances, the will to change and the power that change brings might be sufficient to start you on a new path or on a path already present but modified for the better.

Can self-sabotage be so profound that any positive change is subverted? Are we destined to forever live a path that we did not choose or chart ourselves? Will we always consist of self parts that we did not construct ourselves?

Because we have good parts, hidden parts, parts waiting to be developed, and the will to grow, all of us have the potential to undo negative parts of the self, even if they reflect our own doing. Moreover, although the timing for this change might not be right, having hope that one day we can be in a position for positive change should be enough to keep us on an even keel.

By having even a spark of hope and being even slightly open to positive change, we might partially break negative vicious circles in our lives at a level sufficient to create new opportunities, positive cycles in our behavior and relations, and positive growth in self-development. Even in the most difficult circumstances, we are not destined to stay as we are, to deteriorate, or to resist any change.

We are the only species that develops throughout all the phases of life, including throughout adulthood. Change, growth, and the potential for self-improvement over the full lifespan make us human and unique. For each of us, changing for the better is part of our potential. Moreover, each of us has the potential of helping people dear to us change for the better.

However, starting genuine positive change requires work as well as hope, the right environment, and good timing. You might need to reflect deeply on the self and how you behave, as well as on the life path that you are following.

Genuine giving is one way of receiving and growing. It helps you unmake the more selfish parts of the self and makes it easier to find inner calm, peace, and harmony.

But what does reflection on the self really mean? Does it mean that we should study or work harder to get ahead, or learn how to make many friends? The dictum to which we all aim: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (or its equivalent). What if we changed that to reflect being a better person? Perhaps we should strive to: "Be unto others as you would have them be unto you." Getting into the shoes of others and acting for their benefit is a great step. Being there fully for people who need us and helping with their troubles makes us better people. Sometimes improving the self means improving the lot of others, even beyond our loved ones.

About the Author
Gerald Young, Ph.D.

Gerald Young, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at York University.